True, it wasn’t the Very First One.
The Very First One was in the South of France when I was 8 – and with a dozen of cousins we’d prepared a succession of acts, walking the adults from the swimming pool (choreographed jumps and dives!) to the living room (dancing-worm rendition by my 5-year-old little sister and her cushion) to the stairs (singing by the girls).
A first dabble at entertaining & seducing an audience.
How easy it was, back then….
And then, 20 years later, came the real one. The one with a real performance space, where you spend the money, invite all of your friends… and sit in front of a blank page for hours on end.
The one where you have no idea what you’re doing but this is what you really want to do right now.
I thought – smart ass – that I’d make it easier on myself by rewriting something already written. So I adapted a beautiful Japanese Kabuki tale from the 18th century – the Love Suicides at Sonezaki – and to London post-WWII. (The audience knew! Nothing shady :))
It became not only a play but a musical – with a cast of 10 actors, 12 dancers, and a live band. All this on the enormous budget of £800.
Yes, I don’t do things by half when I get started….
These were probably the hardest, most tense months of my life. I wish I’d known what I know now about mindset and not letting yourself be controlled by fear back then.
I was consumed with worry. It was sitting on my shoulder, walking around with me as I went through my day, voraciously eating away at my sanity.
Not only about how to direct and manage such a huge crew, where to find the money, and how to get an audience, but especially – especially:
What if they don’t like it?
Can I ever survive an audience not liking it?
What if they don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it, don’t like it…?
And guess what.
They didn’t like it.
Truth is, it wasn’t good. It was a First Play.
They were kind, and smiled, and congratulated me. Until the drunken guy at the pub took me to the side and said “Did you too come see that play? I left after 20 minutes… It was so boring.”
Probably not his best pick-up line.
I left the pub drunk & in tears and sobbed through the night.
It wasn’t very good.
But it was a first start.
It is what allows me to write today. And I’m grateful for that.